Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wishing the Trapped Miners in Chile - early and sure recovery- Welcome back.

This land has some connectivity to the Inca civilization and was in news in Feb 2010 for the devastating earthquake that occurred off the coast of Maule region rating 8.8 on Richter scale and lasting upto 90 seconds. It is also the land when thousands of years ago, migrating native americans settled in fertile valleys and coastal areas.


This South American coastal country lying between Andes Mountains and Pacific ocean is in news, as the lives of 33 miners is at stake – they are alive and how they will be saved is the Nation’s concern. Mining sector is one of the pillars of its economy and copper experts alone stands for more than one thirds of its income. Mining is extraction of valuable minerals from the earth which has been happening from time immemorial. It is often perceived as bad for the environment. The digging of underground often is of grave concern from safety angle as well.


You might also know Odyssey, a Greek epic – the story of Odysseus (Ulysses) long journey of ten years in reaching back home after fall of Troy.


Quite unfortunately, on Aug 5, 2010, the roof of San Jose copper gold mine in Chile collapsed leaving 33 miners trapped at approx 700 metres / 2300 ft below the ground. The San Jose mine is about 45 km north of Copiapo and the miners are struck 5 kms away from the mine entrance. The collapse of a tunnel at the 300 level, trapped the workers and there was no communication or information about their condition. The access to mine is hard and the rescue efforts could not be undertaken immediately. Generally when such accidents occur, it is but certain death and even the whereabouts or the facts would also get buried along.


These workers but were destined to live long and in a miracle of sorts they are alive and could establish communication with the outside world after 17 days. It is sensational and a remarkable tale of survival – not even dreamt of by many. The initial rescue efforts kept failing and slowly hopes were vanishing. Now after two weeks of failed efforts, a video camera threaded deep underground has captured first images of 33 miners alive and apparently in good health. The Nation is rejoicing but the ordeal of miners is far from over.
                                                       Chilean President showing the message
In a startling revelation, the Government officials have announced that it could take as long as four months to dig a new tunnel wide enough to lift the miners one by one to the surface – 4 months would mean that they would be close to seeing the New Year 2011.


Optimists never lose hope – till such time they are rescued thin shaft will be used as an umbilical cord to keep them alive, supplying food, water and medicine, providing them information about the rescue operations and carrying back their communications to the concerned family members.


Life down under must be pretty different – certainly not pretty – miners fortunately have been able to use heavy equipment to provide light and charge the batteries of their head lamps, have some water from storage tanks to drink. Still there would be stifling heat and presence of toxic gases. Rescue team reinforced a bore hole and lubricated it to pass supplies through in capsules nicknamed ‘palomas’. The packages would contain rehydration tablets and hi energy glucose gel to help the miners recover their digestive systems. Oxygen was also pumped in. inside the caved in portion, lies a shelter, a living room-sized chamber big enough for all men, strong enough to remain intact.


Rescuers are finding out the condition and have sent small microphones to enable the trapped workers communicate to outside world, to their families.


A huge machine capable of drilling 26 inch wide tunnel through solid rock and boring at about 65 ft a day is being transported to the accident site. Even during this madness, there appears to be more than a system in the rescue efforts. On Aug 19, one of the probes could reach the area where miners where believed to be trapped but to no avail. On 22/8 another probe reached a ramp underground – the miners wrote notes and attached them to the drill bit with insulation tape. Perhaps one of the greatest communication letters that the modern world has seen in recent times. The whole Nation erupted with joy when the President Pinera displayed the note sent from the shelter reading ‘we are fine – the 33 of us’. Hours later, cameras could make contact with the miners beaming the first images of trapped workers. The food is very limited and miners were fast losing weight. Between them they had rationed whatever was available and had survived consuming two mouthful of tuna and half a glass of milk every 48 hours. Think of their condition, when we waste food that is in plenty for us !!!!


On Aug 23, voice contact could be established with the miners. Obviously some of them were having medical problems but the Doctors stated that the discomfort was much less than what was expected !! some psychiatric help is also being arranged.


It is admirable of these men caught in a rock collapse to remain in good spirits and remain confident. Every soul would pray and hope with optimism for the success of long, technically complex operation described as ‘human odyssey’.
What has reached them is perhaps only the umbilical cord – the design, the plan and execution of drilling is a long way in rescuing them alive.
It takes a lot of mental toughness and confidence to survive in such circumstances and the rescue team is trying to identify a natural leader – somebody who can make sure that those trapped inside are mentally focussed and do not lose hope in the long days to come. A 63 year old man has been identified – his letter to his wife is stated to be full of expressions of faith and determination, portraying that they were brave and strong.
Even in this world of technological advancement, faith in God and some supernatural help is required. Sure that these strong men would get that hand of God, survive and be rescued.
Last year 3 miners survived 25 days trapped in a flooded mine in China; few others have seen more than 2 weeks. It is fortunate that the health hazards in a copper and gold mine are much less unlike a coal dust field.
This shelter itself could not be reached easily by them as it took them 7 failed attempts – they had the courage and foresight not to cave in and succeeded in their next – probably the map was not error – free.
As the next borehole is drilled and fully functional, the rescuers would be able to send down solid food such as bread, yoghurt and milk.
Those trapped inside require all that and much more – hope, prayers, blessings, wishes, greetings – in any form – hopefully, we should read see them on ground earth coming out of the mine live and kicking, watched by the entire world. That should happen much sooner that what is being said now
Regards – Sampathkumar S

3 comments:

  1. Sampath, it is a like moving stories shown in NDTV etc., In the mail you had sent along, you had likened this to a telegu film 'nippuravva' of Nandamuri Balakrishna. That made more interesting reading - Balu

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